How to Choose the Right Instagram Hashtags

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I'm Jade Scarfone.
A digital strategist and transformation catalyst, merging a decade of corporate systems mastery with a profound journey of self-discovery. From navigating the high-stakes world of banking to making waves in high-ticket affiliate marketing, I'm now dedicated to empowering entrepreneurs through strategic digital innovations. 

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As you probably know, hashtags are a huge part of the puzzle that is Instagram. But there’s a lot more to these little tags than you may realise. So today I’m going to break down how to choose the right Instagram hashtags… every time!

**This post may contain affiliate links. The services I share are the services I personally use and honestly recommend to anyone. No extra costs are incurred for you; the referral commission simply contributes to bringing you valuable content. 
As you probably know, hashtags are a huge part of the puzzle that is Instagram. But there's a lot more to these little tags than you may realise. So today I'm going to break down how to choose the right Instagram hashtags...  every time!

What are hashtags?

Now just in case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t have a clue what hashtags are, it’s the words that follow the little pound symbol.

Any word you put behind this symbol # instantly becomes searchable. So it’s a way of categorising content to make it easy for users to find what they’re looking for.

Now before we get into how to choose the right Instagram hashtags let’s stamp out all the bad hashtag habits first…

The wrong kinda hashtags

1. Long hashtags that only make sense to you

So now we know the purpose of hashtags it makes sense that using hashtags like #huggingflowerpotsatgingeriscompletelynormal and #gossipgirlmademedothis is completely pointless because no one is going to actually be searching for that.

Yep those are real ones I used back in the day. I had to scroll back through 1620 posts on my personal account to find this gold but it’s worth it lol.

You can see if I search for either of those tags I’m the only post ever made. Not really the purpose of hashtags.

2. Hashtags that have way too many posts

If using hashtags that no one is searching for is bad, you might think the better option would be to use the most popular hashtags that everyone is searching for.

This is also incorrect. If you use simple hashtags like #travel #love #wedding you’re going to be competing with millions of other people using the same hashtags.

There’s new content posted in those tags literally every second so you have a very small chance of actually showing up in the recent or top posts for those tags. Meaning, again you’re wasting a precious chance to be found by new followers.

These hashtags are also super generic meaning people from all kinds of niches would be posting there so you don’t really have a chance of attracting your ideal clients using these tags.

3. Spammy Hashtags

You know, those super generic tags #likeforlike #followforfollow etc. Yeah they might get you new followers but are they really going to be the kind of followers you want?

Hell no! They’re the kinds of followers that care about one thing only – vanity metrics. And they are not the kinda people that are going to engage with your content or be interested in working with you. So you’re better off without them.

Ok, now you know what not to do, let’s talk about…

How to choose the right Instagram hashtags

Every hashtag you use is an opportunity to attract new followers who could turn into clients. So you want to ensure you’re only using hashtags that are going to attract the right kind of audience.

The key to choosing the right Instagram hashtags is being strategic and organised.

Have you ever gone to post and then spent longer trying to come up with your hashtags than it took you write your actual post?

It’s kinda like uni when you finally finish your assignment and then you have to spend hours making sure you reference all your resources properly. It’s not fun, and if you’re not organised it can take a lot longer than necessary.

So here’s how to take the frustration out of hashtags once and for all.

Step One: Do your research

Instead of posting on the fly, you should set some time aside to research hashtags that are relevant to your niche.

There’s a couple of ways you can do this.

First, go to the hashtag search bar in your Instagram app.

Type a generic tag that’s related to your niche. For example, if I was searching for hashtags for my Aussie Adventuress posts a key niche of mine is travel.

Now, I’ve already said using the tag #travel is pointless. But using it to search for other, less used tags in the niche is a great place to start.

As you can see from the above screenshot, all the top tags have over a million posts. But if you scroll down a little you will start to see tags with posts below 500k.

These are the kind of tags you’re looking for. And then once you find one, you can go through the related tags and find similar ones that are all in the same niche.

So tags like #travelawsome #worldexplorer #placesoftheworld #travelingpost #ilovetravelling and so on are going to be much better choices. Because there’s far less competition so you are more likely to stay in the recent posts for longer, and maybe even make it into the top posts.

Another great way to find hashtags that are related to your niche and will attract the right audience, is to check the hashtags influencers in your same niche are using.

There’s bound to be accounts in your niche that you look up to. Check them out and see what they’re doing on their posts. They might not always have the best tags, but in the mix of the not so good ones, you’ll probably find a few ideas.

If you feel like all this research isn’t really for you, then a great platform you can use to save you time is She Social’s Hashtag Files Society. She literally has a library of thousands of hashtags in all different niches which you can easily search whenever you need.

Step Two: Record all your potential hashtags

As you’re doing your research it’s a good idea to record all your potential hashtags.

Keep in mind it’s good to have a mix of tags with posts ranging from about 20k – 500k. Anything less than 20k is getting a bit too uncommon (but can still be good for super niche, or localised content), and anything above 500k is getting too common.

I like to keep a spreadsheet which I review and update every few months. This way I can remove any tags that are pushing above 500k and no longer worth using. And I can also add new ones I discover.

I’ve broken the spreadsheet into different categories and themes that I tend to post about. But you can set it up any way that makes sense to you.

Step Three: Create your hashtag sets

Once you’ve spent a few hours researching all the potential hashtags you could use in your niche, it’s time to create your hashtag sets.

These are like your go to sets of hashtags that you can use on all your posts.

Think about your posting schedule and the various themes you share regularly and come up with hashtag sets relevant to each of your themes.

Within those sets I recommend having a mix of smaller & larger tags so you have more chance of showing up in the top posts.

A great place to keep record of your hashtag sets is within Planoly. This way, when you’re planning out your content, all the tags you need to go with your posts are all saved and ready to go.

Other things to be mindful of…

Whilst it’s good to have your go to hashtag sets you still need to ensure you’re mixing things up.

Using the same 30 hashtags on every post is a quick way to get yourself flagged and marked as spam.

Also, using hashtags that aren’t relevant to your post. Especially as Instagram has recently brought in the feature where you can follow tags. And if you don’t like something you’re seeing in a particular tag you can say you don’t want to see it.

If that happens to your posts too many times it’s a quick way to get yourself banned from showing up anywhere, and that will instantly reduce your reach and there goes your likelihood of getting in front of new followers.

And amongst your niche hashtags you should also add ones that are specific to your posts. So for instance if you’re at a particular cafe or event, or travel location.

Make sure you’re using tags that are relevant to the location and image as well. This way you’re widening your reach to people who have similar interests to you and aren’t just following specific niche tags.

It also shows Instagram that you’re using hashtags the right way so you’re more likely to be featured in more feeds.

How many hashtags should you be using?

Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags so you should be using all of them. Contrary to rumours that too many hashtags can be seen as spammy, it’s not.

Instagram has that feature, which means it is allowed. And every hashtag is another opportunity to be seen in a different search and therefore reach more people.

This is why it’s important to be organised so you can maximise your potential on every one of your posts.

Where should you put your hashtags?

This is another area with a lot of misconceptions. Some people say you should never post your hashtags in the caption, others say you shouldn’t post them in the comments.

I’ve tried both and I’ve followed lots of successful marketers who also do both and either way doesn’t make a difference. What makes a difference is the quality of the tags, the relevance to your posts and niche, and the number of tags you’re using.

Personally, I prefer to put my tags in my comments, purely because I tend to write super long captions and run out of space so would have to cut my posts short if I had to make room for my tags. But when my posts are on the shorter side then I do post them in the caption as well.

So it just comes down to personal preference. But wherever you put them a good tip is to put 5 dots before your tags as this acts like a break and then they’ll actually be hidden from the post. And they’ll only be visible if someone taps to expand the comments or post. For this method to work the dots have to each be on a separate line, not next to each other. As per my below examples….

And there you have it. A complete guide on how to choose the right Instagram hashtags.

For more tips on how to succeed on Instagram check out my post on the latest Instagram features and how to establish a stronger brand on social media.

Jade xo

I hope you got lots of value out of this article. As usual, if you like what you’ve read feel free to like, comment, or share. Your time reading my posts is greatly appreciated. 
As you probably know, hashtags are a huge part of the puzzle that is Instagram. But there's a lot more to these little tags than you may realise. So today I'm going to break down how to choose the right Instagram hashtags... every time!

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  1. Kim Fulcher says:

    Really helpful information. Thanks!

  2. Lydia says:

    Nice tips Jade, thank you very much for sharing 🙂

  3. […] Post on How to Choose the Right Instagram Hashtags – Read Here – turns out I’m ahead of myself and already wrote a post on this last year so you can […]